What Trans Kids Need

Published Thursday, September 21, 2023

As part of our response to the anti-trans rallies across the country on September 20, 2023, we are sharing some educational resources. If you want to see a list of actions you can take, scroll down to the bottom of the post.

When I came out as non-binary to my parents, I did it in person. They did their best to be supportive. But I could also see confusion on their faces – so I wrote them an email later on to explain some things to them about trans people that they just didn't know.

This blog post I am writing is a lot like that email, because it's clear to me that a lot of people are confused about gender, trans people, and what trans kids need.

Polling released this week shows that a large majority of Canadians support trans rights, but a majority also oppose some evidence-based health care for trans kids.1 That gap tells me that there is a broad need for education on gender, trans people, and what it means to show love and care to trans kids.

Over the past few months the Leadnow community have taken actions to oppose right wing attempts to restrict the rights of trans kids and youth. Tens of thousands of you have joined us in calling on government leaders to protect trans rights. But not everyone is there yet, and to build a more safe and inclusive world, all of us need to be able to talk about these issues with our families and communities.

Today, I am asking for you to take some time to educate yourself and others in your life by reading this email and sharing what you learn. Every conversation we have is one more person who can become an ally, or more of an ally, to queer and trans people. We need every ally we can get.

Being Trans
A transgender person is someone whose gender identity is different from that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. There are many, many different types of trans people and terms to refer to us – transman, transwoman, non-binary, genderqueer, agender are just a few. You don't need to know all of them!

I am non-binary. For me, that means that I identify as neither a man nor a woman.

For more information on gender and trans people:

Gender Dysphoria
Gender Dysphoria is the discomfort and distress that trans people experience when unable to live and be affirmed in their true gender. This can occur when a trans person doesn't feel like the body they were born with matches who they are inside, when other people treat them as a gender that doesn't match their identity, or many other reasons.

I experience gender dysphoria mostly in how I navigate social norms around gender and how people treat me – I feel sad and uncomfortable wearing traditionally gendered clothing and when people use the wrong pronouns when they talk about me.

The best analogy I have is that when someone misgenders me, it feels similarly to having someone ignore me. I feel sad and a drop of energy in my chest. If it happens a lot in a row, I might leave the room. If it’s been happening a lot in a single day, I will sometimes cry for a while the next time I am fully alone.

For more information on gender dysphoria:

Trans People and Mental Health
Mental health challenges from gender dysphoria and discrimination make trans people experience depression and suicidal behaviours at increased rates.2 But gender affirming care, trans-inclusive practices, and other supports for trans people reduces gender dysphoria, improves mental health, and prevents suicides.

When I am able to be my full self – when I can express my gender through clothes and make-up, when people around me show they see me by using my pronouns and non-gendered terms – I feel happy and light.

As a non-binary person, I don't feel good using either masculine or feminine pronouns. I use the non-gendered pronouns they/them/theirs. Some people use more than one set of traditional pronouns like she/they, and some people use neo-pronouns like xe/xir. You don't need to know them all! The important thing is that you don't assume people's pronouns, and once you learn someone's pronouns to use them consistently.

If you are having trouble with someone's pronouns you can ask a friend to remind you when you make a mistake, and try practicing using the correct pronouns out loud when you are alone.

Trans youth that are referred to by appropriate names and pronouns experience a 34 per cent drop in suicidal thoughts and a 65 per cent decrease in suicide attempts.3 This is why it is so important that trans students are able to use the correct pronouns and names at school, regardless of whether or not they have supportive parents.

For more information on pronouns:

Gender-affirming care
Gender-affirming care is a wide range of mental health care, medical care, and social services that supports trans people to live openly and authentically as their true selves. Just like any other form of healthcare, it also helps trans people live safe and healthy lives.

Trans youth who access gender-affirming care experience a 60% reduction in depression and 73% reduction in suicide risk.4

Gender affirming care is always delivered in age-appropriate, evidence-based ways, and decisions to provide care are made in consultation with doctors and parents. There is a broad consensus among doctors, pediatricians, and psychiatrists that gender-affirming care is medically necessary to support people in affirming their gender identity.5

For more information on gender-affirming care:

The far right
Harmful far right misinformation is spreading – and it threatens our human rights and access to life-saving healthcare.

The movement to target trans kids started in the US, where 568 anti-trans bills have been introduced in US Congress and state legislatures.6

But now in Canada, the far right is catching up. New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have banned trans students under 16 from using their appropriate name and pronouns in school unless they have permission from their parents. Both provinces are facing constitutional challenges for violating childrens' human rights.7

Earlier this month, the Conservative Party of Canada made it their official party policy to ban access to gender affirming health care for trans kids, with 69 per cent of members voting in favour.8

A loud minority
But, anti-trans sentiment is a minority opinion.

Polling released this week showed that 64% of Canadians think that increasing acceptance of trans people is a good thing. And 69% said they would support their child if they came out as trans.

But the same poll showed a majority of Canadians would oppose trans kids and youth accessing gender-affirming care – despite the evidence being clear that this is what they need.9

There's a gap between people who say they support trans rights and those who want to give us the support we actually need.

For more information on the roots of anti-trans organizing:

What you can do
Transgender people need support from our allies. Here are a few things you can do:
  • Share this Facebook post, Twitter post, or Instagram post to help educate your networks
  • Share this post with someone you know with a note about why you think it is important
  • Read one or more of the additional resources linked in this post
  • Donate to a grassroots organization that works to support queer and trans people:
QMUNITY (Vancouver): https://qmunity.ca/take-action/donate
Gender Generations Project (BC): https://www.gendergenerations.org
Trans Equality Society of Alberta (AB): http://www.tesaonline.org/donate.html
Trans Sask (SK): https://www.transsask.ca/donate
The 519 (Toronto): https://www.the519.org/support-the-519/donate
Rainbow Health Ontario (ON): https://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/donate
Momentum Canada (NS): https://www.momentumcanada.net/donate

Thanks for all you do,

-Peter Rose, on behalf of Leadnow